Wednesday 12 May 2021

'Nafs at Peace' by Jaubi

Following a run of excellent singles over the last few years, Astigmatic Records finally unveils Jaubi's debut full-length outing, 'Nafs at Peace'.

From sessions in 2020 that saw Ed "Tenderlonious" Cawthorne and EABS and Błoto member Marek "Latarnik" Pędziwiatr fly out to Pakistan specifically to collaborate with the Lahore-based quartet, the incredibly successful time together went on to birth two separate albums with Jaubi guesting for Tenderlonious' own heavily improvised project, 'Ragas From Lahore', released through his own 22a label late last year.

Jaubi's releases with Astigmatic have nicely presented the quartet's music to western audiences and what is truly fascinating about their music is that, for a collective that creates Hindustani (North Indian) classical music, to see the impact of hip-hop culture permeate through their sounds is genuinely inspired.  From previous tributes to the music of hip-hop icons J Dilla ('Dilla Taal') and Nas ('Lahore State of Mind'), this year also saw Jaubi pay tribute to the music of MF Doom whose untimely passing, announced in December 2020, still rings raw with fans the world over.  'Figaro (Farewell MF Doom)' was lovingly unveiled and gifted to fans as a free download which proved to be a wonderful start to the year and a move that has been swiftly followed up with the release of 'Satanic Nafs' and his associated Gaslamp Killer and Mophono remix.  Reaffirming Jaubi's hip-hop credentials, The Gaslamp Killer and Mophono delivered an awesome, beats-heavy reinvention of the original spiritually intricate composition making this a great combination of tracks.

The first taste of the Tender-Jaubi collaboration came via the three-track 'Tender in Lahore' EP.  Billed officially as a Tenderlonious project for 22a, the release once again highlighted how that spirit of collaboration continues to define his approach to music-making whether it be through his work as a member of jazz quartet Ruby Rushton, past releases with Astigmatic stalwarts EABS ('Kraksa' and 'Svantetic') or his 'Cosmica Italiana' project with Italian DJ, producer and musician Lorenzo Morresi.  

For 'Nafs at Peace', Jaubi is represented by members Ali Riaz Baqar on guitar and the album's primary composer, Zohaib Hassan Khan on sarangi, Qammar Abbas on drums and Kashif Ali Dhani on tabla and vocals.  With Cawthorne on flutes and saxophone, the invaluable contributions of Astigmatic Records label-mate Pędziwiatr rounds out the ensemble with his work on keys throughout and as a composer for 'Mosty'.

While Jaubi's music to date has seen its fair share of the aforementioned hip-hop inspirations, it may have been hard to know what people would ultimately have expected from a Jaubi full-length project.  Conversely though, it's potentially very fair to say that those expectations have very much been surpassed - from the mesmerising opener, 'Seek Refuge' (beautifully brought to life with help from The Vox Humana Chamber Choir) to the infectious rhythm of 'Insia' and the incredible energy of the lead single 'Raga Gujri Todi'.  

'Nafs at Peace' is genuinely a special record.  A project born of three vastly different factions with vastly different interpretations of contemporary jazz today have created something worthy of each of their names.  The album is presented as a spiritual undertaking in every sense of the word - a journey into the spirit of each of the artists involved and a fitting conclusion to the trilogy of releases that have culminated in this stunning effort.  While Jaubi may have caught people off-guard with this release, listeners really couldn't be any happier with the music presented here and it's with great excitement we wait to see what Jaubi will do next.

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